May 23, 2009 at 12:47 pm
Up until now, the presence of Windows XP has dominated the netbook scene. This may be set to change with the launch of Windows 7 which, unlike Vista, has been designed to work on these lower spec devices.
Windows 7 will come in a number of different SKUs, all of which can run on netbooks. However, given that price is crucial when it comes to marketing netbooks, it is expected that most OEMs will preload the Starter Edition. Now that the three app limit is rumoured to be removed from the Win7 Starter Edition, this may yet be a viable alternative to XP.
Microsoft is believed to charge around $15 for a Windows XP license to run on netbooks. The reason why the cost is so low is that there are specific hardware requirements that a device needs to pass, before being granted the discounted licence. This aggressive pricing came about to fight against the Linux threat.
The pricing for the Starter Edition license is unlikely to be as low, but will still have its own set of hardware requirements. TechARP claims to have got hold of the new maximum specs which Microsoft will use to determine who will benefit from the cheaper-rate Windows 7 Starter Edition.
Most of the specs have been made more generous than those determined for XP and Vista. However, whereas before the maximum screen size was 12.1-inches, this is now limited to 10.2-inches. Given that many netbook vendors are introducing bigger screen sizes under their netbook brands (Acer Aspire One 751, MSI Wind U200 as well as rumoured 11.6-inch Asus Eee PC), this may be frustrating for some manufacturers.
The CPU is also limited to single core processors that do not exceed speeds of 2GHz. Most netbooks these days do not have processors faster than the 1.66GHz seen on the N280 Atom CPU, therefore this is unlikely to be too much of a problem. However, if as expected Intel launch dual-core chips, then vendors using this chip will have to opt for a more expensive Windows 7 SKU.
Interestingly, Microsoft has also removed the touch limitations. We will start to see more and more netbooks sport touch panels following the launch of Windows 7. It would have been very surprising to see this limitation in the Starter Edition. Apart from that the RAM requirement is pegged at 1GB, whilst the storage limits have increased to 250GB HDD/64GB SSD from 160GB HDD/32GB SSD.
Microsoft has yet to confirm these as the new maximum specs for netbooks but they seem sensible and in line with what was expected. It’s worth noting that these specifications can change on a quarterly basis up until the launch of Windows 7, at which point they will stand for good.